|First, full disclosure: I am a recent member of the PTI and a long time believer that Imran Khan offers not just the best hope, but the only hope, for this country and its people to claw their way out of the fatal mess all the other leaders and parties have contributed to over the past several decades.
Imran is the only one of the major national political leaders with a personal track record of resolve, sustained commitment and achievement for good causes. Moreover, his moral credentials of personal honesty, reliability and a willingness to learn from experience and mistakes are what have endeared him to so many people across all segments of society. Whatever may be the shortcomings of specific PTI candidates, none of them can subvert the mission of national renewal and transformation that Imran and the people have irrevocably committed themselves to.
The record shows that all the other leaders have been and remain part of the problem that today threatens Pakistan’s existence as a viable country. While far from perfect and despite all the criticisms and reservations that are expressed about him, Imran alone represents the nation’s hope for a solution. No one else even begins to do so. Despite his image of being a fine leader, Imran has taken measures to ensure against any cult of the personality in the PTI. The ‘little Napoleons’ of the other parties are running what Imran aptly calls ‘family limited enterprises’.
So much has been said, analysed, and predicted about the May 11 elections. Will violence allow a free and fair election to take place? Have the elections been pre-rigged? Are the Election Commission, the Supreme Court, the caretaker governments and the military up to their respective tasks in ensuring a peaceful, transparent, free and fair election? Who will win? Will there be a hung parliament? Who will head a coalition government? What difference will it all make?
Understandably, there is the usual uncertainty and scepticism – even outright cynicism – about the possibility of the process resulting in any real, significant and beneficial change for the people. Nevertheless, there is also a palpable new ‘frisson’ of hope and excitement that has not been present since ZAB’s election campaign of 1970. This is exclusively due to Imran Khan and the possibility of radical change associated with him.
The perpetually myopic ‘establishment’ had reported to its principals in 1970 that ZAB would not even get a quarter of the seats in what was then West Pakistan. Today, similar pundits are making similar predictions about Imran Khan and the PTI. A similar surprise awaits them.
However, if the cynics and pessimists are right, one thing is certain: it will be a massively boring and depressing electoral outcome for all, except for those who expect to convert it into the usual pelf, perks and power for themselves. For the rest, it will only generate indifference and resignation, and over time increasing despair and anger, leading to an inevitable exacerbation of the current social and political pathologies of extremism and violence.
In that event, the elected leadership will continue to actively and passively reinforce the increasingly dysfunctional and fatal status quo, while building their dollar-denominated assets abroad. They will also continue to kowtow before foreign masters while hypocritically pretending to defy them and promising to ‘break the begging bowl’. But the current electorate is from a new generation and far more aware of its realities and potential. These people cannot be bought off with money they know was stolen from them. The old political assumptions are increasingly irrelevant.
Accordingly, the only truly interesting and relevant outcome for the country will be a win for Imran Khan who represents the possibilities for a radical break from a lethal status quo. An outright win would, of course, be the most exciting. This would set the scene for the implementation of the PTI manifesto which is the product of considerable due diligence and expertise. It is made credible by the sustained political commitment that only Imran can deliver.
The other parties have also produced manifestos that read well. But they are a purdah to veil the ugly face of the realities they have always represented. The PTI manifesto, on the contrary, is a living document that indicates the priorities, strategies, policies and measures that represent an honest vision and commitment which, with the people’s support, will be a shield against the machinations and manipulations of traditional Pakistani politics and power plays. What Imran Khan promises is indeed a vision that entails a long march towards national transformation. It is a thousand-mile journey. But as has been said, a few steps towards the goal and it is a thousand miles no longer!
But why should Imran be trusted and taken at his word? Is it because he has not yet had the opportunity to contribute to the national mess? Is he a political genius? What reason do we have to believe he will turn out to be any better than the others? Is it because of his apparent good intentions? Haven’t all our military dictators and political Mussolinis started out with good intentions only to eventually become national disasters, and to confirm the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Isn’t it safer to make do with the devils you know? Can ‘moral enthusiasm’ alone change the wretched conditions in which our people live?
These conditions are the product of historical circumstances, entrenched systems of forces, power and socio-economic structures, and attitudes of passive resignation. They have successfully defied the noble efforts of countless individuals who have sacrificed themselves in the service of the poor, the weak and the excluded. However, these realities have endured and seem to prevail over all efforts to change them.
Does Imran Khan have a magic wand to wave away these realities? Indeed, he has. It is the magic of opportunity, commitment and the organised power of the people. There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. His commitment is to the idea of a multi-dimensional jihad covering mobilisation, organisation, consultation, education, health care, institutional capacity development, basic services and protections, and good governance.
This jihad also covers rule of law, the reform of law-enforcement agencies, respect for human rights, civilian supremacy, parliamentary control, the rapid elimination of institutional and high-level corruption, accountability, transparency and, above all, the operational recognition that Islam is essentially a faith of humanity distinguished by its insistence on the humane and equal treatment of minorities and the weaker and more vulnerable segments of society. Imran’s commitment represents the ‘magic force’ of the Hadith: innamal ‘amaal bin-niyyaat (outcomes are a function of intentions.)
All of this will be part of a National Transformation Strategy (NTS) premised on the maximisation of the quantity and quality of growth, the suppression of ideological and sectarian violence, the addressing of ethnic and regional grievances that give rise to alienation and violence, and national policies (including national security and foreign policy) that serve and do not conflict with the NTS imperative. This is the Long March towards a New Pakistan. Others can make similar talk. But who will walk the walk? None of it will be easy. Success in any specific time period cannot be guaranteed, but sustained effort and eventual success can. And the journey itself will be the transformation.
So who do we vote for? My views are plain. But it is for each of us to privately decide in our hearts and minds. Look at your country. Look at your families, and at your growing children. Think of their futures. Consult your conscience and those whom you love, trust and respect. And vote! You will have served your country. Whatever you truly and independently decide will be the right decision for our beloved Pakistan.
The writer is Pakistan’s former envoy to the US and India. Email: email@example.com
Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, "The magic of commitment," The News. 2013-04-27.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political leaders , Government-Pakistan , Election commission , Supreme court , Dictatorship , Education , Health , Imran Khan , Pakistan , PTI , ZAB , NTS